Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Three concerns dominate Pocho: What is a “man”? What does it mean to be Mexican in American society? How does a writer come to be? For Richard Rubio, answers to each are found in negations. Richard finds his manhood not in the esteemed tradition of fighting but in feeling and weeping, and he finds his male dignity not in acts of valor but in reading and thinking. To define himself in an alien culture, he negates the macho tradition of his father’s world, refuses the comforts of insularity in a Mexican barrio, rejects the reassurances of religious faith, and opts for joining the “melting pot.” As a writer, he immerses himself in the books and the language of Anglo culture and relinquishes dependence on the language of his forefathers. Yet he rejects as well Anglo social pressure to make do, to leash his dreams and settle for the life of a welder or a policeman. Without support or encouragement, he affirms for himself the less conventional aspiration to write, to labor with head and heart rather than hands. Ironically, Richard seems less a Mexican American than a man without a country. What is, after all, the origin of a man’s nationality? Is it the accident of his place of birth or the geography of his residence? Is a man’s nationality determined by his past, by his present or by his future? What physical or mental borders separate a Mexican from an American identity? Shedding gender, familial, religious, linguistic, and social skins, Richard...

(The entire section is 573 words.)